Not too long ago my daughter, who loves art, asked me about what she could do when she grew up. She wants to do something artistic, but is realistic enough to know she can’t draw pictures all day aimlessly. My advice was simple: you really can do things you’re passionate about as long as you solve someone’s problem. Looking back, this is the best advice I was ever offered.
Think about the times your boss appreciated you the most or when you appreciated a teammate the most. It was when a problem was solved. Most people in the shop will go down the endless lists of things to do for the day and check off the next task. However, if that list is not obvious, they await guidance. Although, every supervisor on the face of this planet appreciates those who get things done; there is an innate love for those who solve problems.
Let me explain with a story. Everyday, I would come to work, get acquainted with what was going on and then share the daily priorities with my team. Most of the time, I arrived earlier than them so I could create the plan and they wouldn’t be wasting their days waiting for me. One day multiple fires popped up all over the place and I was way behind on the “planning phase”. I was grabbing random people and orchestrating how they could put out each fire by assigning tasks. As I walked up to the next fire on the list, there was a young Senior Airman who was already engaged in what needed to be done. AND his plan was much better than my half-cocked idea. I sat down with him for a minute to hear out his process and plan and he said, “I saw there was a problem and fixed what I could.” He solved a problem.
This seems so obvious, but so few solve the problems we see. We wait to take the actions another directs us to take. Once this made sense to me, I started to share this with others. Most people just need to know they are “allowed” to solve the problems they encounter. How often do you go through the daily routine with someone on your team and see issues they face? They might not have a tool they need or maybe they are tracking the same information in multiple locations. When asked about this problem, they have grown numb to it, didn’t think they could do anything about it, or didn’t want to complain. My advice was always the same: solve the problems you face and if you are not able to, ask for help.